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Subject: Clearest, Best-Organized, Best-Presented Rules for a Complex Game? rss

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Brian Hollenbeck
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I'm writing up the rules for a game I'm designing, and I'm looking for help in organizing and presenting them. Can anyone point me to a pdf online for a boardgame that has, in your opinion, very clear rules for a complex game? Non-pdf suggestions are welcome, but since I'm not anywhere I can get them, they're not helpful in the short-term.

Thanks!
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Apex
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I don't know about "complex," but Days of Wonder does a great job with all their rules in terms of presentation. I've been extremely impressed with every one of their rulebooks I've ever seen.

I don't see why the presentation matters regarding complexity. Good instructional design is good instructional design whether it's for complex games like Advanced Squad Leader or simple games like Tic Tac Toe.
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Dice bags!
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I really like Jambo's rules:

http://riograndegames.com/uploads/Game/Game_120_gameRules.pd...
 
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Les Marshall
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Not to be cute but, internal editing is as important as organization. Also, make sure you have some solid playtesting as players can show you where your "rules" are incomplete, broken or breakable.

Some of the best rules systems out there are from GMT and (less complicated) Columbia Games. I like Columbia for it's sidebar style comments and examples as they are directly adjacent to the relevant rule section.

GMT tends to utilize a numeric system with major rules sections having there own number with finer rules getting sub number in each section. So, for example Movement might be section 1.0. Whereas distance moved might be 1.1. This sytem was also pioneered quite heavily in Starfleet Battles which used an alpha numeric system. So that major rules sections got a letter. Example, direct fire weapons were D while a type of direct fire weapon would be D1 or D2.

I personally like rules that discuss victory conditions up front rather than in the rear. This tends to help focus my reading of the mechanics along the way to see how they can be used to achieve victory.

Always include a glossary of terms and an index. Also, within the text of the rules, when you refer to another rule section, include the rule number for cross reference.

Once you've drafted your rules, get someone you know, preferably a gamer to make a editorial review for you.
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Tim Schwarz
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I've always found the rules to Friedrich were very clear and well organized.
 
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Andrew Watson
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Interesting question, and not a bad idea for a Geeklist.
 
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Scott O'Brien
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power grids rules were not that well written IMO.
and Killer Bunnies rulebook was AWEFUL.
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Tim Stellmach
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You could probably get a good start by looking at the heavier games among the past Essen Feather winners (http://www.boardgamegeek.com/wiki/page/Essener_Feder). The feather is given on the basis of how well-written the rules are (though, of course, it does refer to the German rules).

Just at a glance, for example, Die Macher.
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Beau Bailey
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sao123 wrote:

and Killer Bunnies rulebook was AWEFUL.


That rulebook is an absolute abomination.
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Bill the Pill
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A Victory Lost by MMP; not that complex a game, but could be construed as difficult because Eurogamers might not be familiar with hex-and-counter wargaming.
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John Dextraze
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Rulesjd wrote:
Not to be cute but, internal editing is as important as organization. Also, make sure you have some solid playtesting as players can show you where your "rules" are incomplete, broken or breakable.

Some of the best rules systems out there are from GMT and (less complicated) Columbia Games. I like Columbia for it's sidebar style comments and examples as they are directly adjacent to the relevant rule section.

GMT tends to utilize a numeric system with major rules sections having there own number with finer rules getting sub number in each section. So, for example Movement might be section 1.0. Whereas distance moved might be 1.1. This sytem was also pioneered quite heavily in Starfleet Battles which used an alpha numeric system. So that major rules sections got a letter. Example, direct fire weapons were D while a type of direct fire weapon would be D1 or D2.

I personally like rules that discuss victory conditions up front rather than in the rear. This tends to help focus my reading of the mechanics along the way to see how they can be used to achieve victory.

Always include a glossary of terms and an index. Also, within the text of the rules, when you refer to another rule section, include the rule number for cross reference.

Once you've drafted your rules, get someone you know, preferably a gamer to make a editorial review for you.


Ditto.

GMT is excellent for rule books. However the best non GMT rule book I ever read was 1960:Making of a President. Go to the game page to view the file for yourself.
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Tom Grant
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The Combat Commander series. Clear, organized, interspersed with useful examples, and indexed. Easy to read through the first time, and look things up during the game.
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Marty M
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Kingdaddy wrote:
The Combat Commander series. Clear, organized, interspersed with useful examples, and indexed. Easy to read through the first time, and look things up during the game.


Combat Commander: Europe has the best written rules I have ever seen. Have a look here:-

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/filepage/26765
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Jim Cote
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Through the Ages and Conflict of Heroes are 2 of the best.

Napoleon's Triumph has pretty good rules, but the opaqueness of the system is not overcome enough by the explanation.
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Dave Eisen
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Through the Ages is *great* as far as precision and clarity. Exposition is strong too.

But the organization is a nightmare. It is taught through three different rule sets, the Simple, the Advanced, and the Real game. And it is very difficult to learn the Real game from this without getting sidetracked by things that don't apply or things which are presented in pieces.
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the scrub
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Combat Commander. Hands down. ASLRB2 a distant second.
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Kent Reuber
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I often do summary sheets for rules, because I like to have all the important fiddly rules organized and written down where I can find them quickly.

One of the best summaries already done is the one for Manoeuvre. The only thing that's really missing is the setup, where players alternate setting up the boards, selecting armies, etc. But for actual play, the Manoeuvre summary card is really excellent.
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Mattwran
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I would second the nominations for A Victory Lost and Combat Commander: Europe, but even better I think are the rules for Here I Stand. One of the few GMT games that has not needed living rules.
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Mark Buetow
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Move! Advance! Fire! Rout! Recover! Artillery Denied! Artillery Request! Command Confusion...say what?!
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Without a doubt, the Combat Commander Rules are the best written.
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Bartow Riggs
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Combat Commander absolutely is the best for actual use DURING PLAY. In my 36 years of gaming I've never seen a rulebook that even comes close. Whenever something is necessary to look up not only is it in there but it can be found quickly.
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Jeff Hinrickson
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I believe that Wealth of Nations and Confucius both have rather well written rules for the complexity of the game.
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Carc >> BSG
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I can't stress this enough. Have your rulebook playtested!!! Give it to a group of players who have never seen your game before. Watch or videotape them reading the rules, setting up the game and playing... DO NOT explain anything to them unless they're ready to pack it up without finishing the game.
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Hank Panethiere
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Gheos has the best presented rules, examples, and layout ever.
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Robert Wilson
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Id go with The Burning Blue or Combat Commander: Europe
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The Galaxy is Just Packed!
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Keep in mind that the reason Combat Commander rules are so good is not just a factor of the words themselves (although they are also very good) but also how the rulebook is designed and presented. Look at how the components are integrated into the rule copy. Look at the consistent use of type style and color depending on the purpose of the passages. Note the use of example boxes that are shaded to differentiate them from the actual rules. All this makes the rules easier to read, yes, but more importantly, they appear less complex and heavy than if it was all one type style.

First of all, set your rules down on a shelf and ignore then for 2 months. I'm not kidding. Then pick them up and read them yourself. That's about enough time to clear your head so you can look at them with a fresh perspective. You will be amazed at what a lousy job you did the first time. Edit appropriately.

Alpha Playtest.

Then absolutely have someone who knows nothing about your game read the rules cold. Preferably someone who is not a gamer (unless your game is obviously for a niche market). Take every one of their suggestions seriously. No minor clarification is minor.

Don't be married to a concept. If an element of your game takes too many rules to explain it properly, consider changing or removing that element. Is it really necessary to the enjoyment of your game?

Beta Playtest.

Then once you have the words down, get a real graphic designer to do the page layout. It's a skill that most self-publishers do not have, but think they do.

Then have someone else who knows nothing about your game read the pretty version of your rules. Edit as needed.

Now you do your "real" playtesting.

Repeat as necessary.
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